2020 – an extraordinary journey of change

15 December 2020

2020 is racing towards the end. With it comes the expressions of hope for the new year, albeit cautiously optimistic.

We need no reminder of the many factors that gave rise to change-related challenges on both organisational and personal levels. On a personal level our minds were set to survive, to push through, to come out on the other end somewhat intact. To accept that which we cannot change. To thrive once more.

On a collective organisational level, this year also illustrated to us that if an organisation is future-focused and willing to invest into a pro-change culture with supporting systems and organisational expertise, it is possible to not only recover – but to thrive through a year like 2020.

A year in review

As some organisations are preparing to wind down operations and teams are ticking off the year’s last items on their to-do lists, we thought it well to reflect on the real impact of the extraordinary journey of change that embodied this year.

1. Our impact on the every-day lives of people

Our clients have entrusted us to change and improve the every-day working lives of approximately 350 team members across seven organisations which include SMMEs to large corporate organisations.

2. Enabling business continuity in response to COVID-19

We have enabled five organisations in particular with their business continuity strategy and operational plans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through:

  • Leveraging the investment that existing clients made into digital transformation which quickly empowered staff to work and learn from home;
  • Implementing new systems for new clients on short notice to empower teams to work from home during the pandemic.

3. Enabling e-learning in higher education

We empowered Stellenbosch University with an e-learning approach for COVID-19 and applied a real-world case study with Nedbank and Col’Cacchio.

4. Personal information protection enjoyed priority

In association with top-tier South African law firm ENSafrica, we have worked pro-actively throughout the year with most of our clients to prepare for the commencement date of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) in mid-2021. As a result, most of our clients have already proactively started implementing measures to better safeguard and protect personal information.

5. We adapted our way of working to protect our team and clients

It was certainly no small feat, but we proudly reflect on our commitment to deliver management consulting and professional services to clients in the context of a pandemic. Our ability to adapt as a consulting practice to serve clients effectively was therefore also tested, requiring us to park our cars and leave our carry-on suitcases in the closet for a complete virtual delivery of service. Over the past six months, we have collectively attended or facilitated 1 072 meetings and sessions, all while delivering change completely virtually, and remaining ‘pandemic safe’.

Our clients weren’t only able to 'adapt and recover' but also to thrive. Their proactive efforts throughout the year enabled them to continue to invest in their digital transformation plans and strategies. Some clients have also decided to accelerate or broaden the scope of their change plans to become even more agile for future ‘black swan’ events such as COVID-19.

What we’re taking into 2021

Alongside our clients we were able to adapt to circumstances beyond our control by managing the change process and empowering people all along the way. However, a recent article by the Harvard Business Review outlining 3D-change, states: “Much as we might like to think of 2020 as an anomaly, it may not be. Conditions for accelerating change have been building for years.”

Philosopher Heraclitus famously theorised that ‘change is the only constant.’ Even more today, change is happening at an accelerated pace. The last thing we are afforded to do in 2021 is rest on our laurels. Our sights are set on the year ahead:

1. Work has changed

As a practice, our way of working has changed. And it will continue to change as we navigate the new year. More likely than not we will adopt a hybrid approach to balance on-site engagement with clients and focused time at a hub office space for a world where online meetings will be more integrated into business engagement.

2. Leadership has changed

The way in which teams are led has opened the floor to new styles of collaborative, emphatic leadership aimed at not only inspiring people, but drawing out what makes them resilient in the face of challenges.

3. We continuously plan for change

We know that you cannot always predict the unexpected, but you can prepare for it. Starting in 2021 and continuing into the future, we’re placing an emphasis on the importance of contingency planning and preparation with clients – regularly testing an organsation’s Risk-Response plan and hosting ‘fire drills’.

4. The way we interact with personal information will continue to evolve

POPIA compliance will be fully enforced from July 2021. As such, the protection of personal information in organisational systems will continue to become increasingly important. Compliance is not only a tick-box, but it is rather a carefully managed change process to address systemic gaps and engrained behaviours to protect the right of individuals to privacy.

It is safe to say that we are much more optimistic than cautious about the new year. With it, it will undoubtedly bring new opportunities and challenges, but these only allow us to do what we do best – manage change.